Bruce McGill, Angie Harmon
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Tuesday's episode of Rizzoli & Isles. Read at your own risk.]
Rizzoli & Isles officially said goodbye to Det. Barry Frost on Tuesday in a moving episode that also paid tribute to late star Lee Thompson Young.
"Our benchmark was, if his family chose to watch it, would they feel like we honored his memory?" executive producer Jan Nash tells TVGuide.com. "His family gets to decide if we did or not, but we feel we honored him and did what we set out to do."
Rizzoli & Isles boss on writing out Lee Thompson Young: "It was very daunting"
Tuesday's episode picked up after the end of last week's season premiere (watch it here) — when Jane (Angie Harmon), Maura (Sasha Alexander), et. al. learned of Frost's fatal car accident — as the squad mourns and helps plan his memorial service to relieve his grieving mother. After solving the case of the week, Jane, who had seen a vision of her former partner during the investigation, delivers a touching eulogy at the service that is clearly rooted in very real and raw emotion. "Angie was absolutely amazing in that scene," Nash says. "She was focused on the eulogy being exactly right, that it be reflective of Barry Frost's character and also be reflective of Lee. It's very lovely."
Set against a slideshow of Frost and some behind-the-scenes shots of Young, Jane highlights Frost's love of and his commitment to his work — elements Harmon asked to be added to also refer to Young, who committed suicide in August at age 29. The challenge, Nash says, was for Harmon to modulate her performance in a way that would speak to both losses.
"I think it's some of the finest work I've seen in television in a long time because it's not just acting," Nash says. "Angie has to act in the context of having had the real experience. She can't let her feelings come through because that becomes too tragic and then we're not actually making good television. She had to balance controlling her own feelings, but yet accessing those same feelings in a way that allows the scene to feel real, and I honestly feel like she did. It was a magnificent job."
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The scene didn't require a lot of takes, as Harmon came in with a "very clear sense" of what she wanted to do, according to Nash. "At the end of the day, there's some technical snafu and you end up doing one more [take] than you'd ideally do, but we didn't do a lot," she says. "She nailed it on the first one. The director did an amazing job capturing it. Everybody brought their A game. Everybody knew what they were feeling and what the scene needed. When the director said, 'Action!' they felt that.'"
Moving forward, the show will allude to Frost's absence here and there, but likely won't delve too much deeper. Nash, who had described writing Young out as "daunting" after joining the show in November, wants the series to return to normal as much as possible.
"That said, there is an empty desk. As you get away from the event itself, the emotion diminishes," she says. "The experience of it on camera is not the same as the experience in life. ... By the end of the season, we hope viewers will see that they've had a full arc of mourning the character, but Episode 2 carries most of the water of the story."
Part of that includes a new character, who will be introduced in the eighth episode — but he won't be a direct replacement for Frost.
"He will fill that role of some of Frost's facilities, like computers, but he's not replacing him. We're not talking too much about that right now," Nash says. "There is no replacing Lee."
What did you think of Tuesday's episode?